North Platte (Class of 1944)
“Bullet” Jack McCartney blended speed, drive and a change of pace that made him one of the most dangerous football players of his time. Tagged as Nebraska’s best high school athlete in his sophomore year, McCartney made a name for himself in track, winning all-class gold medals in the 100- and 220-yard dashes as well as the broad jump during his junior season. An injury prevented him from defending his titles his senior year. All-state in football and a three-year basketball letterman, McCartney served in the Navy before playing football at Northwestern University. After suffering a fractured pelvis, he transferred to the University of Nebraska to complete his college education.
A devotion to the sport of basketball and a pursuit of excellence helped Duane Mendlik put together a career of more than 650 victories ╨ second-highest in Nebraska boys basketball history. A 35-year stint at West Point Central Catholic and a decade at Wisner-Pilger resulted in 15 state-tournament appearances. He coached West Point Central Catholic to back-to-back state championships in 1998 and 1999 and a runner-up finish in 2003. He also has coached football and boys golf.
Few can match the diverse success enjoyed by John Miller. A 36-year coaching career garnered seven state championships and more than 700 victories in girls’ and boys’ basketball and football. His longest tenure came as the Chambers girls’ basketball coach where his teams won five state championships, four runner-up trophies and 585 games. The Coyotes put together an 87-game win streak. After 30 years coaching girls at Chambers, he moved to boys’ basketball, first at Chambers/Wheeler Central then Southern Valley. In six years at Southern Valley, his teams notched 124 wins and captured Class C2 state championship in 2014. Miller also coached the Chambers football team for 13 years, winning 77 games and the 2007 state title.
At Centura High School, Kathy Mettenbrink was simply known as “Coach.” Her 34-year career as the Centurions girls basketball coach resulted in 549 wins, 11 state tournament appearances and two runner-up finishes. But her biggest accomplishments can’t be quantified by numbers. “She turned a lot of average players into great ones,” one of her players said. Despite its small size, Centura saw more than its share of girls become college basketball players. Mettenbrink put her all into coaching. Starting in elementary school, where she taught physical education, Mettenbrink challenged her girls physically and mentally, teaching integrity, hard work, respect, perseverance and teamwork.
Superior (Class of 1980)
When Rick Meyer spins around, the discus usually sails a long way. By the time he was named the Hastings Tribune’s Prep Athlete of the Year in 1980, Meyer had already embarked on a record-setting career. The first Nebraska prepster to eclipse the 190-foot mark, Meyer won the all-class gold medal as a junior and the Class B gold medal as a senior. Also all-area in football and basketball, Meyer accepted a track scholarship to the University of Houston where he was a three-time Southwest Conference champion, a five-time All-American (twice in the shot put) and the NCAA champion in 1985 and runner-up in 1983. His senior year he set the NCAA meet record of 209-10. Ranked in the top 10 in the U.S. for nine years, Meyer placed fifth in the Goodwill Games in Moscow in 1986 and was an alternate for the Olympics in 1992. His younger brother, Andy, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009.
Wayne (Class of 1963)
Don Meyer made his mark nationally as a successful and legendary college basketball coach, setting a record with 923 wins at Hamline (MN) University, Lipscomb (TN) University and Northern State (SD), but his playing accomplishments can’t be overlooked. The only player at Wayne High School to have his jersey retired, Meyer averaged 20 points per game as a junior and 26.5 points per game as a senior for teams that were a combined 32-5. He also starred as a pitcher on Wayne’s first high school team and its American Legion team. At the University of Northern Colorado, Meyer was a four-year starter in basketball, leading the Bears in scoring his junior and senior seasons. He also went 22-2 as a pitcher on the UNC baseball team that nearly qualified for the College World Series. He has been inducted into Wayne High School, Northern Colorado and the NAIA Halls of Fame, and is the subject of the movie, My Many Sons.
Sidney (Class of 1952)
Jon McWilliams was noted for his speed. Labeled “Greased Lighting” after a three-touchdown performance against Oshkosh, the Sidney senior sprinted to Class B all-state honors in football and the 120-yard high hurdles silver medal at the state track meet, helping his team win the state title. McWilliams, who lettered all four years in high school in all three sports, was also a mainstay on the basketball team. Selected as Western Nebraska’s Football MVP by the Scottsbluff Star-Herald, McWilliams went on to earn All-Big Seven honors at Nebraska after being switched to end. One of the first black players of the modern era, McWilliams was a three-year letterman in football and ran track for the Huskers. He played one year for the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Canadian Football League.
Touted as one of the best all-around athlete ever produced by a Nebraska high school. Les earned seven letters in a high school career cut short by signing a major league baseball contract. High school honors included All-State in football for three years. He was a member of the basketball team that won the conference three straight years with a record of 46-7, that included a 37 game win streak. An above average sprinter in track he won the 220 in the 1909 State Meet. In a time when the rules about professional athletes were a bit different, Les attended Springfield College in the off-season where he received All-American honors in football. Called up by the Boston Braves in 1913, he started his compilation of a lifetime batting average of .282. Les was considered one of the heroes in the 1914 World Series Championship by the Braves. He went on to play with several other major league teams and held the off-season job of Physical Education Director at Rice. Later on served as basketball coach at Indiana and then back to Springfield. He was an originator of baseball schools and was instrumental in getting baseball as a sport in the 1936 Olympics. Les passed away in January of 1962. Les Mann’s Big League Career Games Average HR RBI Career 1493 .282 44 503 World Series 9 .241 0 3
Mann was platooned in the outfield of the 1914 World Champion Braves; the next year he jumped to the Federal League and led that circuit with 19 triples. He headed a player revolt for better shares in the 1918 WS as a member of the pennant-winning Cubs. He batted over .300 six times, mostly as a reserve; in his three seasons with the Cardinals (1921-23), he hit .328, .347, and .371. He turned in Giant pitcher Phil Douglas for writing him a letter inviting a bribe in 1922. After his playing days, Mann formed the National Amateur Baseball Association. In 1936, he persuaded the World Olympic Committee to add baseball as an exhibition event; two American teams puzzled a throng of Germans, who formed a larger crowd than had ever attended a World Series game.
Coach. In 31 years at Wayne, hardly an athlete could have made it through without mentoring from Harold Maciejewski. Known as a coach who developed adults more so than athletes, “Coach Mac” coached football from 1953-61, basketball from 1953-67, golf from 1953-1985, track from 1953-1962 and boys cross country from 1962-1985. His teams compiled a 76-44-7 record in football and a 245-81 record in basketball. The basketball team won seven consecutive district championships and went on to win the state title in 1956. The boys golf team sent him into retirement in style, winning the state title in 1985. He also coached at his native Loup City and Manila, Ark.
Athlete. High school sports for girls was restricted in 1930 for several decades. Prior to that, the name Ruby Miller caught a lot of conversation on the topic of basketball. Ruby Miller, a 1927 graduate of Elm Creek High School, was one of the best known athletes in the state because her basketball scoring ability was phenomenal. She scored 80 points against Miller High and 70 against Riverdale High School. In her senior year, she averaged 38.6 points per game. She made 22 of the 25 points her team scored in one of the few close games they played. The skills of Ruby Miller attracted national attention and in 1927 the Elm Creek girls team was invited to play in a national tournament held in Wichita.